Volume 8, Number 4 - Summer 1983

White Oak School
by Rudolph Hilton

The first White Oak School Building was a log cabin in a hollow about two miles northwest of the site of the Spokane High School. The high school site was a part of the original White Oak District. White Oak released the high school site, together with other territory, to a new Spokane District in 1900. The old District ran rest to the Christian-Stone county line just south of Ponce de Leon Cemetery, and north about three miles toward Highlandville, Missouri. The level fields north of Spokane and west of Highway 160 were a prominent feature of White Oak District.

There is no known record of the beginning of the school. I have considered every year from 1869 to 1873, but it seems no one knows for sure. There are records, however, that Christian County schools were experiencing some hardships in 1869. Some districts were defeating levies to support their schools. There were twenty-eight districts in the county, with thirty-four teachers. Salaries were $20 to $30 per month. School terms were two and three months. Those twenty-eight districts were just one-third of the total there would eventually be in the county. White Oak was the first in South Galloway Township and the only one for about ten years. By 1915, there would be six more.

Two roads ran up through the District, both from Arkansas to Springfield. One passed Spokane (which wasn’t there) and the other was Wilderness Road which was about a mile and a half west of Spokane. The settlers along the east road suffered more from bushwhackers during the Civil War and I believe that trouble had much to do with the location of the log cabin school after the war. I cannot name a single family that remained along the highway on the east after the war. I can record only four family names along Wilderness Road when the school was organized. Between the date of the organization and 1881 the record is a blank.

I read the other day that chance and fate combined at Waterloo to wreck the fortunes of their former King, Napoleon. If so, they may have been working together at White Oak. If a certain five families had not been living near Wilderness Road at one time, I believe the school might have waited another five or ten years. No other district was organized in the township for about ten years.

William Gideon was born in Wilkes County N.C. in 1791. His wife Matilda Woods Gideon was born in Barke County, N.C. in 1792. William went across two or three counties to reach a school at Morganton, Barke County. Both were said to have been "liberally educated." They were married in 1812. In 1816 they moved to Hawkins County Tenn., and to a farm near Ozark, Missouri in 1836. Their youngest son John A. Gideon was born there. The younger Gideons evidently attended schools at Ozark. One son, Francis M. Gideon and his wife were teachers in a private school in the county courthouse in 1872.

William and Matilda moved to the future White Oak District in 1857. Some of their children then all with families settled near their parents. John A., having married Elizabeth Hancock took a homestead near his parents and remained many years to take part in the affairs of the school.

Another son, William Jr. owned several hundred acres across the north side of the District. He was murdered by bushwhackers while on furlough in 1863.

Joseph Wade was a native of Kentucky. He was born on that state in 1814. His wife, Nancy Shirley Wade was born in Alabama in 1816. They left Alabama with their family for Missouri in 1840. The parents with their minor children were living in Arkansas in 1861. They returned to Missouri upon the outbreak of the Civil War. Three sons, William, John P., and Joseph enlisted in the Union Army. William died while at camp in Rolla. John P. and Joseph returned to farm in White Oak District.


Joe Hendrex is believed to have been of Welsh descent. He had served in the war from Webster County, Missouri. He came to Christian County in time to take part in organizing the school.

James Davis born in 1842, grew up at the head of Woods Fork Creek near Highlandville. He was married to Mary Melton, and they set an example of efficiency and thrift seldom emulated. He homesteaded 160 acres surrounding White Oak Spring on Wilderness Road.

It is told that Mr. Davis and Joe Hendrex decided that a spot across the road from the Spring would be a good site for a school.

It was not anticipated that obtaining a shelter for the school would pose much of a problem. Ozark, the county seat, had started with a log cabin school and had not yet made much progress in providing school rooms. No one would complain about the style of a schoolhouse so long as it was not too elaborate. The problem of expense was topmost in the minds of a majority in those days.

When the settlers met at White Oak Spring to build a schoolhouse, they found no stacks of lumber and bricks or sacks of cement or boughten doors. They had brought cutting tools, axes, saws, etc. If there had been any expenditure of money, it had to be for nails for the clapboard roof. The logs usually used for cabins were blackjack poles sixteen feet long and about the size of today’s telephone poles. Blackjack poles taper fast from the ground up and sixteen feet was about the limit to what could be used. Records of the school for a few years later, but while the cabin was still in use, show and enumeration of scholars, as they were called, of more than 40. This would have stretched the capacity of a sixteen-foot building so they may have found enough eighteen-foot poles. The poles had to be dragged with oxen, and hoisted to their positions by muscular power. Then they had to be notched at the ends by "corner men," whose duty was to keep all corners level with each other, and to keep the walls perpendicular.

The corner man needed no spirit level or tape measure. All he needed was his eyes and his feet. He could squint out a straight line with his eyes and measure a quarter of a mile with 440 steps. He could straddle the blackjack logs of a cabin wall all day and then dance all night--or preach.

The cracks between the logs had to be daubed with mud. Old black gum mud would not have done, even if it had been available. The dirt used was a lavender-colored clay without grit. The fact is that mud when used to daub cabin walls did double duty. This may sound facetious, but it is true as I am sitting here. Settlers had implicit faith in home remedies. The expected arrival of Junior into the family circle was not thought of as an impending crisis. Worn out and outgrown clothes were hoarded to be sure. I wore my dad’s old shirts for the first two or three years of my life. It was Grandma who was the trusted doctor. I can see her today plucking a loose chunk of dried daubing out of the cabin wall and pounding it with a hammer, or flat iron, or a shoe heel till it was a powder. That would be the nearest Junior would get to talcum powder till he kissed his bride at the wedding.

Since there were no boughten seats, the scholars had to sit on splitlog benches. These were held above the dirt floor by stobs that were driven into augur holes on the bark side of the benches. The scholars could sit on their benches and watch the wasps hanging their nests on the roof rafters. This may or may not have happened, but if a wasp had become hostile and stung a scholar, the teacher might have taken a chew of tobacco fresh from his mouth and applied it to the afflicted spot for a poultice. A cud of fresh chewed was a trusted remedy for stings and even for festered wounds.

Sometimes a settler’s cabin might have a small sash with four little panes for lighting. Sometimes only a flap door hung on the outside with leather hinges, maybe a pair of old worn out boots. At


night the flap door could be pulled shut with a string.

The log cabin school had neither a sash nor a flap door. It had a dressed coon skin nailed over a hole in a wall to let in filtered sunshine. Perhaps a lazy log fire in the fireplace would light up the cabin on cold dark days and the open door on bright days.

No one can recall today who governed the unschooled scholars who attended the log cabin classes. An elderly man, however, told me that a man living about two miles from the school overtook the task. He walked the two miles each day barefooted. When tired he stretched out on one of the splitlog benches for a nap. The scholars’ yelling his name did notseem to disturb him. This story was afforded credence by another one told to me by one of the Wade brothers mentioned above. He said he saw this teacher who was also a Justice of the Peace, trying a case in an abandoned log cabin. While the defendant in the case was testifying, the Justice was standing barefooted, with his breeches rolled up to his knees, and wiping flies off first one leg and then another with a barefoot.

Well, in such an evnironment some scholars became scholars, notably Washington Monroe Wade and Louis Hendrex. If you wonder how, you may find a partial answer in the word "heuristic." Look it up.


T.F. Landers

Nathaniel Martin

James Lair

W. Hilton

Joseph Lebow

Wm. Hilton

M. Mills

John Harris

Emmanuel Choate

E T. Wade

Wm. F. Brown

Jack Quin (colored)

John R. Choate

Wm. Cox

Steve Bilyeu

John A. Gideon

M. B. Coin

T.B. Bilyeu

A. A. Gideon


Jacob Bilyeu

Marvel Mills

C. Bert Harris

Thos. Wade

Wm. Magers

Paul R. Brown

J. T. Wade

Charles A, Hayden

I. J. Hunt

Jos. Wade, St.

Malinda Gideon

P. W. McReynolds

James McGinnis

Thos. Landers, Jr.

F. N. Williams

John T. Nelson

Joseph Wade, Jr.

Curtis Williams

B. Irish

Eliza T. Wade

E. Choate

J.K. Hendrex

Wm. B. Wade

Wood Johnson

Fletcher Rhea

James Davis

G.W. Johnson

Joel Glossip

Woodson I. Johnson

Samuel Hilton

Samuel Magers

Lucretia Hayes

Audie Wood

Mack Gonce

Russell Wood

Thos. Hunt

Samuel Spradling

Abel Wood

Hosiah Bilyeu

John Bilyeu, Jr.

Newton Cox


Information furnished by Mrs. Opal Melton, Highlandville, Missouri, from school records kept by her father,Luther Magers, clerk of White Oak School District for many years



Grade of Certificate

Date beginning



W.M. Wade


May 9, 1881

8 mos.


A.C. Gideon


Sept. 5, 1881

3 mos


H.C. Inmon


Aug. 14, 1882

4 mos


J.L. Hendrex


July 16, 1883

4 mos


T.H. Smith



6 mos


T.H. Smith



6 mos



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